tv Deadline White House MSNBC September 10, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
nicolle wallace starts right now. hi, everyone. it's 4:00 in new york. a new book out tomorrow by legendary journal uft bob woodward describes donald trump as a threat to national security. the book is clearly getting under the president's skin, inspiring mult pee ining multip. it's just the latest sign of an insurgency that when coupled with the anonymous op-are ed published by "the new york times" depicts a president out of control and unstable. just two months from the midterms, it's a growing political problem for the president as it's helping to plunge his approval ratings to new lows. a brand-new quinnipiac poll has the president's approval rating at just 38% with just 32% of respondents thinking he's honest. it's a grim political reality that only gets grimmer as bob
woodward continues to speak out. he issued a new warning about the president just this morning. >> here's the problem. this has not been treated seriously enough. and the things -- some of the things trump did and does jeopardize the real national security. i've never seen an instance when the president is so detached from the reality of what's going on. >> here's the president's attack on the pulitzer prize-winning journalist he once praised. the woodward book is a joke. just another assault against me in a barrage of assaults using now disproven, unnamed and anonymous sources. many have already come forward to say the quotes by them, like the book, are fiction. dems can't stand losing. i'll write the real book. but as with the anonymous op-ed, the book is packing a punch and driving down support for the
president because it relies on dozens of interviews with people closest to the president. the resistance within. here's woodward explaining those denials to the accounts in fear by some of the president's advisers. >> they're not telling the truth. but, look, what's going on here, and my old boss at "the washington post," ben bradley, the great editor, used to say the truth emerges. sometimes it takes time. these people, these are political statements to protect their jobs. totally understandable. but this is as carefully as you can do an excavation of the reality of what goes on. >> here to help us sift through the day's developments, some of our favorite reporters and friends. from "the washington post," phil rucker, frank, former fbi assistant director for counterintelligence is here. jonathan lemire, ap white house
reporter, heidi przybilla, and jason johnson, politics editor for the root. phil rucker, let me start with you. bob woodward, you read the book. one of the first to read it and report on some of its most blockbuster findings. i've read through a lot of it now. what he says is an understatement. the truth emerges. it feels like the flood gates have opened and the truth is now pouring out. >> yeah, i think that's right. and that's what's so unsettling inside the white house. it's one of the reasons why you saw vice president pence on the tv shows on sunday. he tried to project some sign of stability to show to the world that they've got things under control. if you look at the president's twitter feed, it doesn't seem to be under control. he's clearly rattled and agitated by woodward's reporting in the book. he wants people to believe it's a fiction but then the white house also wants people to believe these are just -- this is just griping from disgruntled
former staffers so it can't be both. and the white house is having a difficult time rebutting some of the facts here. one of the reporters in the briefing with sarah sanders today asked, what are the specific facts you're contesting in the woodward book. they've not provided any sort of accounting of what they are challenging in woodward's book. only saying the entire book itself is fiction and that's what's troubling or difficult to sort of grapple with the explanation for how they're dealing with this. >> jonathan lemire, there's an effort to try to root out the leaker. >> there is. the white house is trying -- whether it's sarah sanders and john kelly and others are looking for, at the president's request, trying to figure out who are the source of the leakers of the book and the author of the anonymous "new york times" op-ed. we've seen the president call for jeff sessions, the embattled attorney general to mobilize the department of justice to try to figure out who did this. which, of course, is setting off
alarm bells throughout washington. there's no sense that a crime was committed here in the book or in the op-ed. these aren't state secrets. it's not classified information released. >> what would the rationale be for using the fbi, the top law enforcement agency to find them? >> the rationale supplied by some, including rudy giuliani is that the idea is, if this person is willing to, the op-ed author, let's say, to go to the steps of giving this information to "the new york times," they would do the same, perhaps, with classified information which feels like the minority report. >> exactly. like the thought police. the precrime. a few precrimes for the president in the category of collusion and obstruction. frank, i don't like to talk about red lines because they're all pastel pink these days but this will be another test of the guard rails. if the fbi is asked to investigate a precrime, that was never committed, by anyone, it seems like that would be another test of the guard rails. do you agree? >> i do. here's what i think will happen.
if this plays out this way. i think if this gets to christopher wray, the director of the fbi, he's going to politely decline to look into this. he's going to ask two questions. has a crime been committed? the answer seems to be no. and secondly, if not, is there a national security interest at stake here? and right now what we have is a disgruntled personnel, right? we've got somebody that i understand from an hr perspective they're looking for. they want to find. i get that. what concerns me the most is if this is going to be used by the white house, the declination by doj or the fbi to look into this as fodder to fire the attorney general or chris wray, then we'll get into a crisis within the justice department. >> let's jump right into christopher wray. he's one of the latest targets of the president's ire. he doesn't get as much attention on the president's twitter feed. it's hard to say jeff session's name without putting beleaguered in it or crooked mueller or
whatever it is the president says about him. we reported that christopher wray is increasingly t lly the t the president's ire. do you think this would be the flab point that would rattle the rank and file behind christopher wray, frank? >> i think the rank and file is already behind christopher wray. i think what really is going to get to a flash point for director wray is the release of classified information by the president. if he releases the bruso or carter page classified documents and sources and methods and techniques are involved that are secret or top secret level, i think you'll see chris wray challenge the president and do so publicly. >> let me bring us back to the point, heidi, that phil rucker raised about the vice president. he was willing to take a lie detector test to prove he wasn't the author of the anonymous op-ed, but no one is asking
anyone to take a lie detector test and attest that the president is, indeed, stable and fit for office. that seems to be -- >> except rand paul. >> let's watch pence. >> do you think you know who anonymous is? >> i don't. i don't know. but i do know that they should resign. and leave this administration. >> should all top officials take a lie detector test and would you agree to take one? >> i would agree to take it in a heartbeat. and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do. that would be a decision for the president. >> as recently as late this morning, omarosa, a former white house staffer, was talking about how they all texted amongst themselves about the 25th amendment. why isn't there a call to strap them up to a polygraph and discuss whether they discussed the 25th amendment. >> he's trying to get ahead of
it and prove his loyalty to the president. why is that happening? because of distant history and in terms of more recent history. you and i sat on this set several months ago when we called that it was going to be the end of rex tillerson after the moron story and after he refused to deny that he made those comments. everybody saw that. these are all the same officials. they all learned from that. geoff bennett said earlier today that back in the 1970s, ron ziegler, nixon's press secretary, used to regularly lie to the press and later was called the press, said they were doing shabby journalism and later had to apologize when everything came out. bob woodward, let's listen to what he's saying. he's saying directly a lot of these people, based on his own experience, are feeling like this is something they're compelled to do. they've got to make these denials. >> and on this idea that woodburn said. it's profound. he said the truth emerges. donald trump is running from his
own ugly truth. >> and everyone is more and more comfortable in sharing those truths now, right? we had fire and fury. then unhinged. now we have fear. and also, remember, omarosa said i'm not the only person who had tapes. everybody walked into the white house with a gopro and tape recorder. so, clearly, people are more and more comfortable because they recognize the public will believe them now. that's what this white house is worried about. not just that you have a certain number of leakers and people who concerned. but that the public believes it. the public is like, yeah, i really don't think this guy is running this place anymore. i don't think he's in control. and once that message really, really trickles down to the public, this administration has a lot less power than they ever imagined. >> phil, i want you and jonathan to weigh in on this. any self-awareness this obsession with finding the leaker, all this discussion from the vice president of the united states of america, ignores that even the president's own supporters may be very unnerved. you look at 38% approval rating.
that includes people that vote forward donald trump. 32% think the president tells the trooths. a big swauths of his own voters now believe that he's a liar. is there any evidence to reassure people that the commander in chief is mental the stable? >> not a particularly broad effort. certainly vice president pence tried to talk about that over the weekend. but in all of those denials, from cabinet members over late last week, many of them were just denying that it was them who wrote it. they didn't deny like the substance of the editorial. and in just conversations with various sources in the administration, people say things like, you know, oh, it couldn't be this person. that person wouldn't have the courage to do this op-ed. it's not like that person didn't believe what was written in "the new york times" editorial. there's an assumption that a lot of what's there is a belief shared by many in the administration, but it's just a matter of figuring out who actually had the courage to put that in writing for "the new york times." >> this is in line with your
reporting. i want to read you something in axios. trump's advisers have spent the last few days reading a pdf of the book and the president knows some of his previously trusted aides played starring roles in woodward's narrative. trump is privately furious at cohn and porter and sources with direct knowledge of trump's thinking say it's possible he publicly attacks porter and cohn this week. this obsession with revenge and settling scores. forget about all of us. you never had me. you lost me at rapist and murderers, but not assuring your own supporters that you're not cuckoo doesn't seem to be on their to-do list. >> this is a president obsessed with loyalty, although loyalty for him is often a one-way street. he feels the walls are closing in. a telling comment the other day where he suggested he was talking about how he sometimes looks around in the meetings to see who is in there because he's less sure of who he can believe, who he can trust, even in his own administration. to piggyback on phil's point,
there are very few people -- people are denying being the author of his op-ed. they're not denying the substance of it. people inside and outside the administration are sort of playing the same guessing games. i didn't do it but i know five people who could have done it. >> i heard that. i didn't have the you-know-whats to right it, but these people -- >> this is not a widely held belief. not at all. there are some people who speak to the president frequently over the weekend try to get him off this to suggest that, like, this is not a good issue for you. let's move on. let's talk about something -- focus on the midterms, something you can sell like the economy. we saw a little of that today but that was mostly in response to obama's claims and the president thinking he's taking the credit for the economy. trump is fixated on this. and isn't going to let it go. >> the through line, frank, through this book is that donald trump is a liar. it opens with fantastic reporting about the campaign where steve bannon confronts him
with two whoppers. you've never voted in a republican primary. he says, yes, i have. and he says you're pro choice. he says, no. bannon talks out and says, this guy is a pathological liar. john dowd saying the president is a bleeping liar. a bleeping liar. so this idea of lies runs through the whole thing. and we are often talking about the mueller probe and all the witnesses, all the white house advisers who have been before robert mueller. this book and op-ed seem to seal the deal on donald trump as a pathological liar. >> this is an administration characterized by lies. the problem is the president now is boxed in by his lies. his years of lying. and this goes directly to the heart of why he just cannot be interviewed by bob mueller. he certainly, even written responses to questions, nicolle, are going to be problematic because of the counterstatements and the statements against self-interest that he's made over the course of his
administration and his campaign. and eventually that's going to trip him up. >> let me put up for you, heidi, the list of people. we were talking about this insurgency from within. there was a list of white house advisers who had testified before robert mueller. hope hicks, one of his most trusted and loyal confidantes who may or may not have some legal exposure herself for her interviews or the conversations she had with the president about his interviews. mike pompeo. don mcgahn spent at least 30 hours with the special counsel. don mcgahn was probably around for everything that's under scrutiny in the obstruction of justice probe. reince priebus was around when flynn was there and around the questions about his firing. sean spicer, dan coats at dni who knew nothing about helsinki. steve bannon his former strategist. steven miller. i don't know what he does, all the scary, cruel things. and jeff sessions, his sitting
ag. you talk about a paranoid president. there's reason to be paranoid. >> to your point, this has been potentially one of the presidents who values loyalty the most but has had the most disloyalty within his ranks because it's a one-way street. and i think the confluence of the op-ed and the book this week may signal -- may signal a shift to kind of a save yourself mentality among the republicans because, can you imagine if this happened during the obama administration, how nancy pelosi would have reacted or how harry reed would have reacted? it was all the republicans on the hill. the ones we did hear from were bob corker and ben sasse who said, hey, what's new here. this is what we've all known from the very beginning. >> phil rucker, i want to go there on bob woodward because donald trump has praised bob woodward when he's been fair and open to donald trump's arguments or claims. and he attacked the obama white
house when woodward was tough on them. talk about bob woodward as a journalist and sort of his standing in american culture as one of the preeminent truth tellers in our politics. >> that's the right phrase. preeminent truth teller. that's what he is. he along with carl bernstein broke open the watergate scandal in the '70s that befelled president nixon and ever since then, woodward has covered administrations, presidencies, he's found truth where white houses have tried to hide it. and he's written these sorts of books about so many previous presidents. and it's almost like trump has met his perfect match in woodward now after this long career. and the method that woodward had which he explains on the "today" show is methodical. you know, hundreds of hours of these deep background interviews with sources he collects papers. he tries to piece together facts and find narratives in truth. and that's the portrait of the book there.
and it's not only that trump has complimented woodward when he wrote the obama books but also complimented woodward in the phone call just a couple of weeks ago. >> the book is excellent. i'm a little morthe than halfwa through it. multiple accounts from multiple advisers to this president. how the insurgency within plays out at the justice department based on a brand-new assessment from one of the president's closest allies. also, another top trump adviser concedes that donald trump is a drag on republicans this fall and warns of a blue wave rising where candidates like ted cruz prove insufficiently likable. where have i heard that before? and brand-new reporting on north korea's rezusistance to donald trump's twitter charm offensive. here's where woodward's warning on national security gets very, very real. all those stories coming up. traders -- they're always looking for advantages.
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the anonymous op-ed in "the new york times" speaks of a two-track presidency saying from the white house to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief that the commander in chief's comments and actions. most are working to insulate their operations from his whims. a sentiment echoed by a surprising voice. a trump ally who says the justice department is doing just that. this is former governor chris christie's response to trump's call to have sessions investigate the author of the op-ed. >> it's not going to affect policy because the people who are in the responsible
positions, and i know these people. i served with rod rosenstein in maryland for four of his years. i served with chris wray. and chris wray acted as my lawyer. they're not going to respond to this stuff. it's unfortunate, but it's white noise to them. they'll follow their job. and by the way, the indictments of these republican congressmen are a perfect example of that. they knew the president wasn't going to react well to this, yet, you know if you'll indict a member of congress, that the highest levels of the justice department, the deputy attorney general or the attorney general himself signed off on those indictments. and so they're not being affected by the white noise of the tweets. >> here's hoping. this as the president is expected to declassify more documents around the surveillance of carter page and bruce here. i hope governor christie is right but i've seen the justice department and fbi bend a whole lot of political whims, white noise that broke through when
the president was able to align paul ryan who has been spine unless the face of the political calls from the white house and devin nunes of the house intel committee to declassify memos around this fisa application for carter page. and i don't have the same faith, do you, what chris christie promises? >> look, nicolle, we're seeing the president put his own self-interest over the national interest. now it's going to directly impact national security in the form of releasing publicly the possibility of highly technical sources, methods, human sources, assets, informants. at some point, doj and the fbi is going to have to say no. we're not doing this. we're coming out publicly against it and possibly we could see a resignation attached to that. >> and this is the axios reporting on this topic. republicans in the house intsle and judiciary committees believe the declassification of the carter page documents and the
bruce orr documents will taint the trump/russia investigation by showing it was illegitimate to begin with. trump has been hammering the same theme for months. i don't understand why they're still trying to smear robert mueller when he's wracked up guilty pleas from all these people that should have been loyal to trump. >> we had #release the memo a few weeks ago. house republicans wanted. this is just the latest chapter in the same story. it's an effort to just cloud the issue. to muddy the waters and find a distraction and undermine the legitimacy -- >> paul manafort was tried and found guilty. he was convicted of the crimes he was charged with. >> certainly for much of their history, republicans have tried to portray themselves as the party of law enforcement. of trying to write these wrongs and punish those who do them. instead they're focusing on coming up with some sort of cover story to try to delegitimize what robert mueller is doing, even though the facts
are obviously there. we see the guilty pleas and the indictments of the russians. mueller is proceeding, trying to ignore this noise and clearly is proceeding with his investigation and producing results. and yet that doesn't seem -- enough of these republicans who seem to be doing the white house's bidding to try to undermine his credibility. >> "the new york times" today put a very logical net around what all the targets of trump's ire have in common. bruce orr is the doj official. fits a larger pattern. in his highly respected career in law enforcement, he specialized in going after russian organized crime. it just so happens most of the once obscure bureaucrats trump has tried to discredit are experts in some combination of russia, organized crime and money laundering. it's true of andrew mccabe, andrew weisman and others. let's remind our viewers who they are. andrew mccabe, one time acting director of the fbi. and andrew weisman, one of the
investigators on the mueller probe. i realize this evidence is only circumstantial and well short of proof but it's one of many suspicious pat rns about trump and russia. when you look at them together it's hard to come away thinking the most likely explanation is a coincidence. >> right. well, he's after the people who can catch him. and that's always been his motivation. and the problem is that what this administration is trying to do is they are fighting a pr battle that is no longer in the public domain. it's in the courts now. this is in the courts. i don't think robber mueller wakes up and looks at twitter, oh, my gosh, i'm trending. i need to stop. they have a real investigation going on. they have things about national security. when the president and the republican party think we're going to release this and this will embarrass anyone, this train has already left the station. and so the only thing left at this point is whether or not the president is just going to try and fire everybody after the midterms and see if he can squelch this because the investigation itself is going to continue. this is the last thing that's really important. with this undermining of the fbi, you guarantee that even if
you do get rid of mueller, they won't stop. everyone else who is involved will say we'll just leak this. we're going to continue this investigation. >> george papadopoulos once called low-level george by the white house, i thought delivered some bad news for jeff sessions yesterday. let's watch. >> candidate trump at the time nodded at me. i don't think he was committed either way. he was open to the idea and deferred to then senior senator jeff sessions who i remember being quite enthusiastic about hosting. >> attorney general says he pushed back. is he telling the truth? >> all i can say is this was a meeting from about two years ago. my recollection differs from jeff sessions. >> let's watch jeff sessions' version of the truth. >> there are reports you shut george down when he proposed that meet with putin. is this correct, yes or no? >> yes, i pushed back. i'll just say it that way because it was -- >> yes. your answer is yes. >> he said he said, heidi.
>> this has been the problem and why jeff sessions recused himself from the investigation. and this is why the house republicans have shut down their investigation because it's witnesses like this, like george papadopoulos who they should have been talking to and scores of other witnesses, nicolle, who if you talk to the democrats on the committee will say never got a chance to even give the information to the committee. and that is why i think we've talked many times about what will be the breaking point for the republicans. there is a very strong red line between the house and the senate where there is still a credible investigation under way. there's no precedent for what the house republicans are trying to do with subpoenaing these documents during an ongoing investigation. and i just have to surmise that folks like richard burr, that would be crossing the line for them. and maybe be that moment where republicans start to speak out more en masse because that would have drastic implications.
>> this is the hope and change hour. hoping for red lines and white noise. frank, the effort in "the new york times" op-ed i read to fire the investigators. i think it's accurate to describe them as once obscure bureaucrats. i never heard the name bruce ohr before. these are people being targeted because of their expertise in russian mobs, in money laundering and because of their roles in the russia investigation. not a coincidence, is it? >> no, there's no question that all of the litany of people you read earlier that have all appeared before mueller and discussed what's going on inside the white house with him are going to amount to the mind-set of the president. they're going to be sharing, and they already have shared his insights, his motivations, what he's talking about in terms of going after these people and the intent seems to be clear. the intent is to take out the people who can do harm to me. that's what -- that's his
mind-set and that goes toward intent. you'll hear a lot of people say that's all circumstantial evidence. that's how you make cases. when you hear rudy giuliani say the truth isn't the truth and it's one person against the other. it could be 12 people against what the president is going to assert on the obstruction case as to his mind-set. and what we're left with is almost nobody who can stand up and say i'm going to be here in two months, six months, a year because i'm the career person that's going to do this right. because if the president keeps taking them out and wants to fire them, particularly after the midterms, we're going to have issues here. and it is obstruction. and needs to be call what it is. obstruction of justice. >> and notable that rudy's defense isn't the president didn't obstruct justice. it's that you can't indict him. so that's telling, troo. frank, thank you for boiling it down for us. when we come back, another trump senior staffer goes rogue. this time to admit that the president has a divisive personality that may hurt republicans in the midterms. you think? that story is next.
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on planet trump, anything less than complete and full-throated feelty is an insult. sometimes a fireable offense. it doesn't matter how many facts or figures support what you're saying if you criticize the boss, you're in trouble. so we're left wondering if federal budget director mick mulvaney is looking over his shoulder just a little bit. "the new york times" obtained a recording of mulvaney and rona mcdaniel speaking to party officials and donors at a recent closed door event in new york city. they were reportedly confident in the right's ability to turn back a blue wave, but their discussion wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. mr. mulvaney suggested republicans would fare better if they could subtract the president's divisive persona. we'd all fare better. divisive persona from voters' minds and stress instead that the country is in pretty good
condition. he also alluded to senator ted cruz without mentioning his name as a lawmaker who might lack the charm to win a contested -- this is hilarious. joining us is a.b. stoddard for real clear politics. if donald trump could not have a screwed up personality, everything could be fine. i'm with mick mulvaney on that. >> mick mulvaney is very slick. what he said is not that bad. >> if he said if ted cruz wasn't odious. >> he didn't say everybody hates trump. he stepped around it. >> he said if you remove his personality, it would be fine. >> well, yes. >> let me make sure i'm not missing this. >> he wants candidates to avoid the discussion of him being -- >> of who trump is? >> to focus on the economy. that's what they're all trying to dwoith no help from the president except for his tweet today. >> this is what they always say,
and this is what they're trying to continue to induce donors with. we're going to reverse historical trends and not lose in the midterms. it's not realistic. if you look at all the issues and cryou just named one of the family separation. and health care is a huge one the democrats are running on, and there's president trump. it's interesting the ron mcdaniel and everyone who works in the trump administration, especially the ones at the evangelical leader dinner should no republicans are turning on republicans and recording these events. >> let me ask you, too, though. on this idea of the midterms being anything other than something that is very -- just historically very likely to go the direction of the dems. in 2010, obama, the democrats lost dozens, dozens of seats with the generic ballot that looked much stronger. there was some polling out today in axios that had the figures
and fundamentals in 2010 when democrats lost four or five dozen seats. they had a better -- they had fewer seats. president obama had a higher approval rating and the generic plt was half of what the -- >> and fewer retirements. all those variables are worse if you look at it. one thing republicans have going for them besides the economy if people are only going to vote on the economy is their voters are motivated in midterms. older, more conservative and whiter electorate. and president obama's coalition didn't turn out in '10 or '14 and he lost badly. that has to change. if young people and voters of color are going to turn ourkt, then god help the republicans. but republicans could actually hold on. >> there is no one -- this ispr. no one more disliked in the republican circles than ted cruz. people don't like him. it's like that dating thing. people are just not that into
him. to hear mick mulvaney, a wight ringer's right winger say the unlikable guys might lose. that's remarkable. is that race really in reach for o'rourke? >> no need to fact check the ted cruz may not be that charming, unless you want him to quote "the princess bride" which he's very good at. there's some concern in that say. ted cruz has to be considered the favorite there. this is still texas. you know, there are -- it would require a lot of new voters to turn out to back the democratic candidate to beat him. but the fact that it's even on the republicans' raider shodar >> it's on mick mulvaney's radar. >> they're doing an intervention. it's not just the president. it's the republican party. it's the donors. because o'rourke is outraising him hand over fist. this is something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago that ted cruz would be in any position where he need to
be rescued by the national party. >> shows you the state of play nationwide. >> if there's anyone who can bring new voters into the fold, he has it. whatever it is. if there's a race that's going to defy the odds of a state like texas, this seems to be said race. >> every race we talk about the ticking democrat graphic time bomb and look at a few states. texas is the one that people are always most skeptical about. looking at other states like georgia, like nevada, like arizona. but the fact that we are, in this sirk cycle, talking about , it's a testament to, one, a very good candidate, but the fact that this demographic trend is becoming a reality. >> this can't end without going back to mick mill vainulvaney s you take away the president's personality. other than his twitter feed, what else is his presidency, other than a cult of his
personality? >> it's symbolic. and mulvaney is like that person dieting. if you take the calories and sugar ouft of this cake, it's still healthy for me. no. >> i say that. >> if the president doesn't have anything to offer. if you look at the contrast between obama finally rolling out this weekend in enthusiasm versus the desperation of a sitting party with a great economy saying we've got to deploy the president for someone like ted cruz who he doesn't like and whom ted cruz shouldn't respect him. that's the danger that i think the republican party is facing. but also i think this. i think at this point, you are starting to see levels of fear that were unheard of just a couple of months ago. georgia wasn't supposed to be in play. they're still tied. that's insane for georgia. you have got florida that's now in play. places that previously the republicans thought we can lock this up and put our money in other places. if they have a fight all over the map for the next 55 days, they're in trouble. no way you can cover that much ground. >> heidi, thank you so much.
when we come back, the two-track government in action. new reporting from nbc news reveals that the government has two very different reactions to north korea's decision to continue to make nuclear weapons. wool we'll tell you about it after the break. i can't believe it. that everything sticks to stefon diggs's hands? no, i can't believe how easy it was to save hundreds of dollars on my car insurance with geico. cool, huh?
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president trump claiming another premature victory in north korea this weekend after the country left its icbms out of its latest military parade. trump celebrated that parade on twitter writing, quote, this is a big and very positive statement from north korea. thank you, chairman kim. we will both prove everyone wrong. there is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other. i so want to correct his grammar. much better than before i took office but new reporting from nbc news finds the newest intelligence shows kim's regime has escalated efforts to conceal its nuclear activity. u.s. intelligence assesses north
korea could produce 5 to 8 new nuclear weapons in 2018 according to three current and former senior u.s. officials. that pace is virtually identical to their assessment of the regime's production of about six per year prior to the trump/kim summit. joining us at the table, nbc news national security and military reporter courtney kubi. that is stunning. so i want you to take me through two things. one, which you've reported on extensively, what bob woodward picks up about this two-track government. the building you cover. the pentagon often in contact with its counterparts with a very, very different message than what comes from the white house. >> we've seen it with russia and korea. president trump has this message for the dictator for the leader that is very positive. we're going to work together. build a coalition. we'll have this -- >> like a buddy movie. you and me. >> then the administration comes in as the bad cop and does things like imposes sanctions and kicks out diplomats. in this case, we -- there's this new piece of intelligence. we reported over the summer
several different times about how north korea is continuing to work on its nuclear program. they're continuing to pursue their nuclear technology. this is one more step in that. another effort they're taking to conceal their program, the full extent of what they're doing. and then that they are still working toward building more nuclear weapons this calendar year. what president trump, though, he continues to tweet these positive things to kim jong-un. now the administration is saying we're going to reignite this maximum pressure campaign which is a term that we heard earlier on in the trump presidency. in this case, they'll start naming and shaming the people who are violating the u.n. security council resolution sanks with the ship to ship transfers in violations of the sanctions, providing coal and other things to north korea. >> economic warfare. let me ask you -- let me put you on the spot because so much of the woodward reporting was familiar to me because of your reporting. let me read some of this to you and have you sort of expand on
it for us. within the white house but not publicly trump proposed sending a tweet declaring he was ordering all u.s. military dependence, thousands of the family members of 28,500 troops out of south korea. it would almost certainly be read in north korea as a sign that the united states was seriously preparing for war. withdrawing dependence was one of the last cards to play. the possible tweets scared the daylights out of the pentagon leadership, madison dunn ford. a deck laration of intent to doo was almost unthinkable. >> i did a story about that about two weeks after that meeting. i think it was february 2 pd. saying that president trump was very seriously considering pulling all dependence off the korean peninsula. and bob woodward is right that was the sign. whenever you talk to people at the pentagon, when the pressure and the tensions were at their highest point in 2017 with north korea, one of the things we consistently heard was what you need to watch for is them pulling civilians out.
when they're taking the families out, that is when war is coming. woodward was right to write about that. the story that we reported on in february, months ago, was significant at the time. of course, it didn't happen. what happened in the immediate aftermath is the olympics started several weeks later. there was this diplomatic overture where north korean athletes came to the olympics and participated and we saw kim jong-un's sister sitting there feet away from mike pence and the first family. and so that sort of kicked that can down the road. my colleague carol lee and i did a story not long after that about how, in fact, secretary mattis and john kelly were continuing to take decisions like this from president trump and kind of keep shuffling the paperwork around so that nothing would ever happen on them. >> let me press you on that. do they view trump as a fly they have to swat away or is it as dire as depicted that mattis views has job as standing between this impulsive, uninformed president and world war iii?
>> secretary mattis definitely views his job as protecting national security. and doing what's best -- >> from trump? >> from decisions, you know, depending on who those decisions are. i don't want to secretary matti but i will say, it's very clear in the way that he acts, right? you don't see him popping his head up very often. he wants to maintain a relationship with president trump that means that trump will continue to listen to him and to his -- and to his advice that he gives. of course, we've also done a story saying that there are a number of decisions that president trump made that were counter to what secretary mattis recommended to him. >> all right. i want to get everyone in on this. we have to sneak in a break. we'll pick it up on the other side. don't go anywhere. and i don't add up the years. but what i do count on... is staying happy and healthy. so, i add protein, vitamins and minerals to my diet with boost®. new boost® high protein nutritional drink now has 33% more high-quality protein, along with 26 essential and minerals your body needs. all with guaranteed great taste.
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we're back, talking about donald trump as a threat to our national security. let me put you on the spot one more time and then we'll open it up the theme of the woodward book seems -- and a lot of your reporting, frankly, seems to be that the guardrails are straining under the pressure of trump. mattis seems to be straining more than others. would you agree with that? >> when tillerson left, i think that put a ton of pressure on secretary mattis, because the two of them really presented this united front on a lot of these security decisions and hr mcmaster was part of that as well. so for both of them to leave in quick succession and then for john pollton to come in who doesn't seem the to have a good relationship with secretary mattis and mike pompeo to come in, when the two of them are really the ones who are talking to president trump right now, mattis is sort of pushed a little bit more to the side. it doesn't -- i'm not ready to
say yet that president trump is not listening to secretary mattis. i don't think that's fair. but he's definitely not one of the ones who are in the inner circle, whispering to the president on a daily basis anymore. >> that scares me, a.b.. >> well, and president trump is, if anything, is transparent and he wants people who get along with him. and mike pompeo has made the case. it's a college course, in how to butter up donald trump. and i think john bolton does, as well. and so, why listen to, you know, stodgy old mattis, who doesn't talk enough and isn't solicitous, let alone drooling over you, so, it became clear exactly the way courtney describes. there was this sort of circle of people that worked together and they were a powerful force. without that, mattis is pushed to the outside, and that's been clear for months now. >> mattis also doesn't go on television the way the president wants him to. this idea, the president versus the presidency. today at the press briefing, another example. sarah sanders raving about this very kind letter that kim jong-un sent to president trump,
with the idea of the basis behind it being setting up a second summit, perhaps this time in washington. and those plans have begun. they're certainly in the very early stages, nothing is settled. but even as the administration is warning what north korea might be doing, the president wants to forge forward with this mano y mano diplomacy that he thinks is the only solution. >> do they value? do they understand what mattis means to military families? men and women whose sons and daughters are in iraq and in korea? >> john kelly does. i think some people in the administration certainly do. but all of our reporting indicates exactly this. that mattis used to have, perhaps, the most clout of any cabinet secretary. and the president still does listen to him, but it's definitely faded as the months have gone on. that trump, has he's gotten more comfortable in the job, surrounded himself with more people who are more willing just to agree with him, no matter what he says, that he has less patience for those who might be willing to step up and disagree or take a different tact. mattis, it's not like he's shut out, but he doesn't have the clout he used to. >> that's why they write anonymous op-eds. sneaking in our last break, with don't go anywhere. we'll be right back.
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and that's because of this president. >> all right. there you go. you know, a little silver lining for me. thank you for that, my friend. my thanks to jonathan lamir, a.b. stoddard, courtney kube. "mtp daily" starts right now with katy in for chuck. i tried to say that too fast. >> i do it all the time. if it's monday, the white house briefing room goes full campaign spin room.